An SHTF situation warrants a reliable shotgun, not random brands or models that can go kaput in dire situations. You may personally prefer a pump-action, semi-auto, or break-action shotgun, whether single or double-barrel, but you must prioritize durability, efficacy, efficiency, and versatility.
You must account for the availability of compatible shells and upgrades when buying a shotgun for end-of-the-world scenarios. Read on to explore the best shotguns for SHTF and the essentials you need to be truly ready. I’ll also answer a few commonly asked questions about the use of shotguns for SHTF.
Here are the 9 best shotguns for SHTF.
Remington 870 is among the most reliable shotguns ever made. Currently, there are 21 variants of the original Remington 870, available in as many as 36 styles. All the models feature a solid steel block receiver, and you can choose your preferred barrel length and gauge. Remington 870 models have synthetic stocks, but there is one hardwood variant for home defense.
Remington shotguns, especially the 870, are reasonably priced. You can use different shells without worrying about functionality or reliability. Also, there are a plethora of accessories and aftermarket products that you can use, from barrels and chokes to sights and lasers. You can modify your Remington with rails, stocks, extractors, triggers, and foregrips, among others.
Remington 870 and its variants hold up excellently even when you are not routinely proactive with cleaning and maintenance. And the pump-action shotguns of the brand are rarely blamed for any mechanical failure. That reliability is what you need to survive in an SHTF situation.
Remington makes several semi-auto or autoloading and tactical shotguns. However, it is better if you don’t rely on a gas system or any fancy mechanism in a shotgun when you are not certain about the graveness of the SHTF circumstances you may be in. Simpler mechanical systems like pump-action have little to no chance of failing, and this applies to all other shotgun brands.
Click here to see the current prices of various Remington 870 models.
Mossberg is an equally reliable brand as Remington, especially for shotguns. Like the original Remington 870, Mossberg 500 has clocked well over 10 million in sales. Also, Mossberg has more than a dozen pump-action shotgun models with variants. However, the 500 and its distinct styles are undoubtedly appropriate for SHTF scenarios, whether for home defense or hunting.
Mossberg 500 has a variant called Flex that simplifies adapting the shotgun to suit different situations or applications. For instance, you can switch the grip, forend, buttstock, or recoil pad without using any tool. Such a feature is empowering if you have to toggle between defense and hunting. Also, you may consider another popular Mossberg shotgun, the 590 M Mag-Fed.
Mossberg 590 M makes unloading and reloading more convenient than conventional pump-action shotguns. Like Mossberg 500, the 590 M Mag-Fed shotgun is compatible with various loads, be it shell type or size. The magazines have a maximum capacity of 20 shots.
Similar to Remington, Mossberg has innumerable accessories and aftermarket modifications or upgrades available, including shells. Thus, you are unlikely to encounter any challenges when prepping and stocking up for armageddon. Furthermore, Mossberg has break-action shotguns with double-barrel in an over and under alignment if you wish to include one in your arsenal.
Related The 5 Best Scopes for a Mossberg 500.
Winchester is probably the most iconic brand that made shotguns a default choice for so many people and institutions, not just the military and law enforcement but also civilians. Known as the Trench Gun, the Winchester Model 1897 or M97 had a consequential role in the First World War, and prior to that, in the Philippine–American War. The model was the first real and on-field case study of how effective a pump-action shotgun can be in close-quarters combat.
The modern Super X Pump shotguns of Winchester are available in more than two dozen variants. Winchester Model 101 is an over-and-under double-barrel shotgun. While both these series sport the Winchester brand name, the contemporary shotguns are now manufactured by Browning, as licensed by Olin Corporation, which owns the trademarks of the original company.
It is unwise to generalize a series of shotguns due to the varying specifications and features. Besides, choosing a shotgun is a bespoke process, as you must play to your strengths and practice. For instance, the Winchester SXP Defender is an excellent general or all-purpose shotgun, but it’s 38.5 inches (98 cm) long, and thus it may not be for everyone.
CZ shotguns are as durable and reliable as Remington, Mossberg, and Winchester. While some CZ shotguns can be pricey, there are many affordable entry-level pump-action models that do not compromise efficacy and efficiency. CZ 612 is available in two variants, Home Defense and Field. Both variants have a 355 mm (14 inches) length of pull and 4 + 1 magazine capacity.
The CZ 612 Home Defense has a 470 mm (18.5 inches) barrel, fixed choke, and polymer stock. The CZ 612 Field variant has a ~710 mm (28 inches) long barrel, 3-piece choke, and walnut stock. Of course, the choice is down to the specific utility you have in mind, among other factors.
You may refer to the CZ USA shotgun parameters for a comprehensive comparison. Also, the manufacturer Ceska Zbrojovka has an extensive network of dealers providing prompt support throughout the country. Thus, you don’t have to worry about aftermarket service and essentials.
Kel-Tec has carved out a niche with its tactical pump-action shotguns. In contrast to traditional pump-action shotguns, the Kel-Tec KS7 and KSG, in particular, are not only more compact and lighter but also effortlessly convenient due to the single and dual-tube loading mechanisms.
The KS7 is the more affordable tactical pump-action shotgun from Kel-Tec, featuring a single tube with a magazine capacity of 6 + 1 for 3 inches (76.2 mm) shells. The KSG series features a dual-tube mechanism with a magazine capacity of 7 + 7 for 2.75 inches (70 mm) shells.
Both KS7 and KSG are 12 gauge models with an overall length of 26.1 inches (66.3 cm), which is almost 1 foot (30.5 cm) shorter than traditional pump-action shotguns. The dual-tube loading mechanism in the KSG comes at a significantly higher price, of course. The KS7 is almost half the cost of the compact and standard KSG shotgun. The other tactical variants cost a bit more.
The Kel-Tec shotguns have two more distinct features. The KS7 & KSG models have downward ejection and thus are ambidextrous. The KSG shotguns with the switch to toggle the dual-tube loading mechanism can be invaluable if you have to stand guard against several intruders.
You are probably aware of the brand Benelli if you have been looking for the best shotguns for SHTF. However, you may have only heard or read about Benelli’s M4, a tactical shotgun. The Benelli M4 tactical shotguns are great but expensive. Also, the M4 features the Auto-Regulating Gas-Operated system, an excellent piston-driven mechanism used by the US Marine Corps.
The problem with such systems is that you cannot do anything to fix the mechanism if it fails during an unfortunate moment in an SHTF situation. Even if you understand such systems and can fix them, you are still going to need a more conducive setting than when under attack.
Thus, you should check out the Benelli Nova and SuperNova shotgun series. The variants in these two series are among the most affordable shotguns you can buy without compromising reliability and durability. The Nova models have 18 inches (46 cm) barrels, whereas the SuperNova variants are 0.5 inches (1 cm) longer. Unfortunately, these two series are available only in 12-gauge variants. You can’t choose any other gauge, but it may not be a deal-breaker.
Any auto feature or mechanism powered or operated by gas and other systems can be risky if they fail in dangerous situations. You may not be with a group of defenders or avengers in an apocalyptic scenario, so you cannot rely on comrades to provide cover as you resort to your backup weapons. Thus, choose a reliable mechanism for any firearm, including shotguns.
However, any survivalist may want to have a tactical shotgun or other semi-auto firearms in the arsenal. Beretta 1301 is a reliable option if you want to use a gas-operated tactical shotgun. The 1301 model has around half a dozen variants currently. This tactical shotgun earns a mention due to its convenient and beginner-friendly features, especially those related to safety.
The Beretta 1301 has oversized safety, bolt release, and handle. Also, the shotgun’s length of pull is adjustable. Thus, beginners and survivalists of different body types, sizes, and heights can conveniently use these features to safely and efficiently operate the 1301 tactical shotgun.
FN Herstal used to manufacture different types of shotguns, but its recent offering has narrowed down to the SC 1. The FN SC 1 is expensive and not really designed for home defense. The over-and-under shotgun with 30 inches (76 cm) long barrel isn’t practical for close-quarters combat or defense. The model may be fitting for hunting or sports, not a do-or-die scenario.
However, the discontinued FN P-12 is an affordable and worthwhile option. The 12 gauge pump-action repeater shotgun has 2 chambers for 5 x 2.75 inches (70 mm) or 4 x 3 inches (76.2 mm) shells, 18 inches (46 cm) barrel, and the overall length is 39 inches (99 cm).
Wilson Combat shotguns, especially the MFS and CQB, are not for beginners. However, many survivalists are not exactly new to shotguns or other firearms. The CQB is for those looking for a tactical shotgun with modular features. The MFS is for those already familiar with the Remington 870 but may want to explore more than the basic functionality, which can perplex beginners.
Is a Shotgun the Best SHTF Weapon?
A shotgun is among the most lethal weapons for defense in close-quarters combat. Also, you can use shotguns for hunting, from small game animals to bucks, which is crucial for survival in an SHTF world. However, you cannot have only a shotgun in your arsenal.
Survivalism is essentially prepping for the worst. You cannot be genuinely ready for an end-of-the-world scenario if you have only a shotgun or one type of weapon. Survivalists need an arsenal, not limited to firearms and ammunition, but also the essential resources to survive.
What Is the Most Reliable Shotgun in the World?
The most reliable shotgun in the world for SHTF scenarios is the Remington 870, Mossberg 500, Winchester’s Trench Gun, and their contemporary variants. The next contenders are CZ 612, Kel-Tec KSG and KS7, Benelli, and Beretta’s shotguns.
What Is the Most Popular Remington Shotgun?
The most popular Remington shotgun is the Model 870 Wingmaster. The Remington 870 series covers 6 bores or gauges and 8 barrel lengths. Every survivalist will find an ideal shotgun and more based on their preferences to be genuinely ready for an SHTF world.
Which Shells To Stockpile for SHTF?
Ideally, you should stockpile all three types of shells for SHTF, i.e., birdshot, buckshot, and slug. However, stockpiling buckshot and slug shells is more pragmatic, as they can cover the entire spectrum of hunting and defense, from game animals to large predators.
Is Buckshot Good for SHTF?
Buckshot shells are not only good for SHTF but quintessential because they are useful for both defense and hunting. Birdshot shells are not effective against large predators or intruders, and slugs are ineffective when hunting for small game animals for survival.
For more, check out Pump Action vs. Semi-Auto Shotgun for Hunting | Pros and Cons.
Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!